Barak Ravid
July 5, 2010 - 12:00am

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fly to Washington on Monday evening to meet with President Barack Obama for the fifth time since the two leaders took office.

A senior source in Jerusalem said that Netanyahu hoped the meeting would enable him to regain Obama's trust after months of tension regarding West Bank settlement construction. Netanyahu was planning to present Obama with a number of proposals for coordinating progress in the Middle East peace process, said the source.

Netanyahu and Obama have not yet managed to establish close and intimate working relations since taking leadership of their respective countries. The level of trust between the two appears very low, making it difficult to yield significant progress in the peace process.

Obama is not convinced that Netanyahu is serious in his declared intentions regarding the process, and the Israeli premier is not confident that the current American administration is committed to maintaining the same relations with Israel as those held by its predecessors.

Netanyahu will present Obama with a few new ideas for the political process, and he hopes that the consolidation of a new policy outline will assist the two countries in overcoming the "hurdles" that will surface when the temporary settlement freeze ends in September.

The prime minister has spent the last few days before his trip meeting with senior Israeli ministers to sort out the new ideas.

Netanyahu is still debating whether to enter direct negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with an agenda focused solely on a permanent peace settlement or to base the talks on a temporary arrangement whereby a Palestinian state would be built in stages. He is also considering the possibility of opening negotiations with both options on the table.

Netanyahu convened senior ministers from his Likud party on Monday to brief them on what he wants to be conveyed to the media during his trip to the United States. He stressed that the central goal of his meeting with Obama was to jump-start the transition from proximity talks with the Palestinians to direct negotiations.

The White House also wants Netanyahu's visit to pass smoothly and to avoid the crises and confrontations that overshadowed the prime minister's last three trips to Washington.

The Americans will greet Netanyahu with a particularly warm welcome, which will include a join press conference alongside Obama and a lavish luncheon comprising both delegations.

First Lady Michelle Obama, has also made the unusual gesture of inviting Netanyahu's wife, Sara, for a personal visit to the White House while the two leaders are meeting.

Netanyahu will also meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during his visit.

On Wednesday, the prime minister will head to New York for meetings with Jewish leaders and will grant interviews to major American television stations. He will also deliver a policy speech Thursday to the Foreign Relations Council in New York.

Upon his return to Israel, Netanyahu will travel to Egypt to update President Hosni Mubarak on his visit to Washington.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017